The weeks and months ahead should be pretty intriguing for anyone interested in public lands management as Idaho Governor Dirk Kempthorne wends his way through the confirmation process to become the next Interior secretary.
Already I noted that the governor will no doubt face questions regarding his thoughts on the proposed revisions to the National Park Service's Management Policies.
Well, The Wilderness Society has its own set of requests for Mr. Kempthorne. Specifically, the organization wants his confirmation to hinge on him agreeing to correct all of the wrongs it believes Gale Norton committed as Interior secretary.
"The departure of Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton and the nomination of Governor Dirk Kempthorne to replace her provides the Senate with an opportunity to review and address the severe damage being done to our national parks, national wildlife refuges, and Bureau of Land Management lands as a consequence of the policies adopted and implemented by the administration during the past five years," TWS President Bill Meadows writes in a letter to Senators Pete Domenici and Jeff Bingaman.
"Since her confirmation in 2001, Secretary Norton implemented policies that repudiated the conservation and careful stewardship philosophy that guided her predecessor, and replaced them with policies that catered to special interests who would gain financially from the commercial exploitation of our publicly owned resources," he adds.
The three-page letter, sent Wednesday to Sen. Domenici, chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Sen. Bingaman, the ranking Democrat on the committee, asks that the Senate confirm Gov. Kempthorne only if he pledges to correct all the woes The Wilderness Society believes Ms. Norton has exacted upon the public lands during her tenure.
Looking at the national parks, specifically, Mr. Meadows says the Interior Department made a "major misstep" when it decided to revise the NPS's Management Policies "without a clear reason."
"To make matters worse, the proposed policies uproot the long-standing conservation mandate of the park system in favor of a more permissive and less protective approach to management," writes Mr. Meadows. "We ask that Gov. Kempthorne withdraw this proposal immediately and abandon any further effort to rewrite and weaken the existing Management Policies."
Additionally, The Wilderness Society believes Gov. Kempthorne, if confirmed, should see that snowmobiles are phased out of Yellowstone National Park "in favor of park-friendly snowcoaches."
"As more visitors ride snowcoaches, fewer are choosing to enter the park on snowmobiles. In Yellowstone's fragile winter environment, the results resemble the National Park Service's previous conclusions: the air is clearer and healthier, the park is quieter, Yellowstone's elk, bison, and other animals are facing much less disturbance," Mr. Meadows writes.
Will the Senate rally around The Wilderness Society's requests? I doubt it. But it'd be nice.